13 Reasons Inbound Marketing Fails: Common Pitfalls To Avoid


So you’re thinking of implementing an Inbound Marketing Strategy for your business, or perhaps you’ve already started, and are experiencing lackluster results. Countless businesses have started on the path to Inbound, only to be derailed a few months in and left wondering why it didn’t work. In this article, we’ll be discussing our 13 reasons why inbound marketing fails at so many businesses, and provide tips on how to stay true to your Inbound goal.

Before we dive in, let me first provide some context to this article. I personally have been practicing Inbound for the past eight years, which ultimately led me down the path to start SIXSIXER and provide these services for other businesses with aspirations for growth. In that time I’ve worked with businesses of all shapes and sizes, in varying verticals and industries, all with wide-ranging goals and objectives.

I’ve seen what Inbound Marketing has the power to accomplish for your business when executed correctly. I’ve also seen how inbound marketing fails businesses when it's not done right, leaving business owners scratching their heads.

The fact is, Inbound Marketing can be tricky. There’s a lot you should consider before just diving in the deep end of the marketing pool. The following list is comprised of the usual suspects when it comes to Inbound Marketing Failures. Avoid (or at least be aware of) these thirteen pitfalls, and you can avoid derailing your inbound efforts from day one.

Inbound Marketing Pitfalls to Avoid

#1: Poor Strategy and/or Poor Process

Every tactic and tool you employ for your inbound marketing must have a solid strategy or it will fail. Equally important are the processes you put in place to exercise and monitor that strategy. Most likely, you won’t realize the success you’d hoped for having one without the other.

So how do you go about developing a solid strategy and implementing an effective process? A rock-solid strategy is based around real-world data about your customers and the challenges they seek help. Do plenty of research and study what your competitors are doing, what’s working, and if you could do it better. What tools and tactics are available to you that you could capitalize on?

Once your strategy aligns with your business objectives, you can then employ a process (or series of processes) that will act as a system of checks and balances to keep your strategy on-track and moving forward.

#2: Poor Content

Often times, businesses executing an inbound strategy believe the more content they create the better their chances are of reaching their target. While there is some merit to this approach, more content simply isn’t better than good content. Writing haphazard blog articles that aren’t in line with your strategy or your prospect's challenges and goals, aren’t going to get you very far.

Instead, consider what is called “long-form” content, and attempt to provide more in-depth answers to your customer's questions and problems. The better you can speak your customer's language and provide real value to them (as opposed to extracting it from them), the more likely you’ll be to actually attract and engage with the right people.

#3: Poor [or no] Targeting

This one may be one of the more daunting tasks in the marketing world it seems. Buyer personas are a lot of work to put together. Especially if the status quo is “we cater to everyone, everybody’s our customer.”

The problem with this thinking is in fact, not everybody is meant to be your customer, and the sooner you recognize who is and who isn’t a good fit, you can then be far more effective focusing your efforts on people who you can truly help.

For those of you hesitant to develop Buyer Personas, we suggest first developing what are called Ideal Buyer Profiles instead. These buyer profiles are going to be the industry verticals or companies your Buyer Persona’s work for.

If you can identify the right businesses and types of companies to get in front of, you’ll quickly see who the Buyer Personas are at those organizations, and identify them as the different segments of people involved in the purchasing decision. You can then use this intelligence to start to craft your actual Buyer Personas.

#4: Allocation of Resources

So you want to build Rome in a day, already an enormous task, and you tapped the single member of your marketing team with getting it done. Not only is this naive, but almost a guaranteed way of 1) experiencing an inbound marketing fail, and 2) burning out the only person on your marketing team.

Inbound is a team effort, not a 1-man job. No single person possesses all the required skills to be successful in implementing an inbound strategy. This is why a range of talents is necessary.

You don’t need a team of experts on staff with a salary that rivals the New York Yankees to have a successful inbound program. You do though, need to address the workload accurately so as not to overwhelm any one team member.

Writing blogs isn’t easy, nor is creating video content. However, in a team environment, these tasks can seem less daunting. Whatever you do, don’t assign your inbound responsibilities all to a single individual and expect it to work, it rarely does.

#5: Your SMART Goals Are WRONG

Inbound Marketing is a marathon, not a sprint, that can put your business in the position to win the attention of your future customers, on their terms, when they’re ready.

SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.

WRONG stands for: Weak, Rude, Opportunistic, Naive, and Goofy.

#6: Your Sales Process Is Too Complicated/High-Touch

If the solution you provide is highly complex and requires a high rate of 1:1 human contact, inbound might not be the best fit for your sales process. This high-touch rate can be difficult to scale and inherently requires more personal accountability than systems and processes. That’s not to say inbound won’t work, but you may end up facing some additional challenges with user adoption among your team.

#7: Your Target Market Is Too Niche, or Too New

If nobody knows about your product or service because it’s too new in the marketplace, inbound may be difficult to gain the traction your business needs when starting out. Inbound requires people searching for and consuming content on the topic for which you’re an expert on.

If nobody’s heard of your product or service, the odds of them searching for it online are slim to none. Alternatively, if you sell a specialized product that caters to a very small group or one that’s price point puts it out of reach for all but a select few, there are better marketing strategies to explore to gain the attention of those buyers.


#8: Your Response Time Is Too Slow

So your marketing department and the executive team is on board with inbound, but it never trickled down to the sales team. Sure, they’ll be able to close the easy layup leads you send their way, but what happens when they encounter inbound leads that are looking for help and guidance? Will they be able to adjust their methods to cater to today’s empowered buyer? Probably not right out of the gate, but inbound selling can be taught.

There are some pretty amazing stats based around prospect response times, and the new standard is 5 minutes. If you’re not reaching out to your prospects on their schedule, you best believe someone else will.

#9: Lack of Sales & Marketing Alignment

This one is obviously easier said than done, and would most likely deserves its own article. These two teams, though working toward the same goal often work completely independent of each other, and are compensated in vastly different ways.

You should have a Service Level Agreement (or SLA) in place between Sales and Marketing that clearly defines your buyer’s journey and customer lifecycle stages and each’s responsibilities at each of those stages.

For more info on Sales & Marketing Alignment, we’d recommend looking into some of the HubSpot Academy Inbound Sales Trainings.

#10: Lack of True Buy-In/Lip Service

There’s nothing wrong with following suit and emulating others' success. But occasionally businesses think that a single piece of software can solve all their problems. The reality is, implementing a new piece of software (like a CRM or marketing automation platform like HubSpot) can do more harm than good when there isn’t a true lack of buy-in around the concept of inbound and a strategy in place to practice it.

#11: The Solution Your Selling Is Too Complicated

Though no fault of your own, if the user’s experience isn’t up to par with the rest of their buyer’s journey en route to becoming your customer, well the odd of them speaking highly of your product or service diminishes greatly and so does their ability to positively affect the people who are entering your sales funnel. Inbound isn’t just for Marketing and Sales anymore, your client-facing teams need to get involved too.

#12: You Have An “outsourced” Culture

So you purchased some slick marketing automation and SEO software and tasked the summer intern with getting it all set up and running correctly. Or you’re up and running but realized that no one on your team is writing the blogs or creating the videos they said they would, so you outsourced all your expertise to a freelance writer who knows no more about your business than any other website visitor.

Someone has to own the system, the process, the initiative, the content, and most importantly the team has to care. Insourcing has for more advantages than outsourcing, unless of course you already forget what #2 was on this list.

#13: Your Website [User Experience] Sucks

All of the best people, strategies, processes, tools, and content will be useless if your website’s user experience isn’t up to par. This is why it is so important when setting out on the road to inbound, that you do a thorough assessment of your website and it’s content.

You may only need to make slight tweaks to your content and architecture in order for your website to be a help and not a hindrance to your efforts. Alternatively, this might be an excellent time to do a complete overhaul and welcome your site visitors with a more modern and engaging experience (think personalization) your competitors aren’t yet providing.

Your website should be treated as a living entity that evolves with your business’s and customer’s needs. It is, in fact, your best salesperson. It’s available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and doesn’t take holidays or vacations. Get it a new pair of shoes, and a nice power tie that says to visitors [and Google] “Here I am, I got what you need, I’m here to help,” and acts as a magnet attracting and converting visitors.

By realizing and addressing some of these common issues early, your business can experience the same successes of those who inspired you to start doing inbound in the first place, and avoid being an inbound marketing fail statistic.

If you’re experiencing any combination of these issues and you’re looking for some help solving them — we’d love to hear from you. Feel free to contact us via our website, or in the comments section below, or click here to Spark Something Up.